(June 7, 2019) –- For more than a year, GozNym, a gang of five Russian cyber criminals, stole login credentials and emptied bank accounts from unaware Americans. To detect and quickly respond to escalating cyber-attacks like these, researchers at The University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA) have developed the first framework to score the agility of cyber attackers and defenders. The cyber agility project was funded by the Army Research Office.
“Cyber agility isn’t just about patching a security hole, it’s about understanding what happens over time. Sometimes when you protect one vulnerability, you expose yourself to 10 others,” said computer science alumnus Jose Mireles ’17, who now works for the U.S. Department of Defense and co-developed this first known framework as part of his UTSA master’s thesis. “In car crashes, we understand how to test for safety using the rules of physics. It is much harder to quantify cybersecurity because scientists have yet to figure out what are the rules of cybersecurity. Having formal metrics and measurement to understand the attacks that occur will benefit a wide range of cyber professionals.”
To develop a quantifiable framework, Mireles collaborated with fellow UTSA student Eric Ficke, researchers at Virginia Tech, U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory, and the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command Army Research Laboratory (CCDC ARL). The project was conducted under the supervision of UTSA Professor Shouhuai Xu, who serves as the director of the UTSA Laboratory for Cybersecurity Dynamics.
Together, they used a honeypot—a computer system that lures real cyber-attacks—to attract and analyze malicious traffic according to time and effectiveness. As both the attackers and the defenders created new techniques, the researchers were able to better understand how a series of engagements transformed into an adaptive, responsive and agile pattern or what they called an evolution generation.
The framework proposed by the researchers will help government and industry organizations visualize how well they out-maneuver attacks. This groundbreaking work will be published in an upcoming issue of IEEE Transactions on Information Forensics and Security, a top cybersecurity journal.
“The cyber agility framework is the first of its kind and allows cyber defenders to test out numerous and varied responses to an attack,” said Xu. “This is an outstanding piece of work as it will shape the investigation and practice of cyber agility for the many years to come.”
"The DoD and US Army recognize that the Cyber domain is as important a battlefront as Ground, Air and Sea," said Purush Iyer, Ph.D. division chief, network sciences at Army Research Office, an element of CCDC ARL. "Being able to predict what the adversaries will likely do provides opportunities to protect and to launch countermeasures."
Mireles added, “A picture or graph in this case is really worth more than 1,000 words. Using our framework, security professionals will recognize if they’re getting beaten or doing a good job against an attacker.”
UTSA is home to the nation’s top cybersecurity program, an interdisciplinary approach that spans three colleges: the College of Business, College of Engineering and College of Sciences. Research centers and outreach programs provide UTSA students and faculty with additional opportunities to explore the various facets of this high demand and ever-changing field.
The Department of Computer Science, housed in the UTSA College of Sciences, offers bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degree programs that support more than 1,360 undergraduate students and 68 graduate students. Its major research units include the UTSA Institute for Cyber Security, which operates the FlexCloud and FlexFarm laboratories dedicated to both basic and applied cybersecurity research, and the UTSA Center for Infrastructure Assurance and Security (CIAS), which focuses on the cybersecurity maturity of cities and communities while conducting national cyber defense competitions for high school and college students.
San Antonio is home to one of the largest concentrations of cybersecurity experts and industry leaders outside Washington, D.C., which uniquely positions the city and UTSA to lead the nation in cybersecurity research and workforce development.
Learn more about the UTSA Department of Computer Science.
Learn more about cybersecurity at UTSA.
Celebrate UTSA’s 50th Anniversary and share social media posts about the 50th using the hashtag #UTSA50.
Emerging artists work in the full range of traditional methods and materials as well as in interdisciplinary and new media. Themes range from social and cultural critique to investigations that are challenging and exquisite explorations in creative form and image.UTSA Art Gallery, Arts Building, Main Campus
Juan Vallejo’s art conveys his experience as a childhood migrant worker. Opening reception: Thurs, Dec. 5, 6–9 p.m. Free and open to the public.UTSA Terminal 136, Blue Star Arts Complex, 136 Blue St., San Antonio
Portions of Cook Road will be closed for construction related to the new Student Success Center project and Americans with Disabilities Act sidewalk upgrades.Cook Road, Main Campus
Out of the violence comes a silence, then a song. Thus begins an extraordinary night of camaraderie, music and peace. A remarkable true experience, told in the words and songs of the men who lived it. UTSA partners with The Public Theater for this event. Contact the theater at (210) 458-3288 for scheduling requests.Buena Vista Theater, Downtown Campus
Forty-six modular units will be delivered to Main Campus as part of the new Student Success Center project. The units will enter campus at Brennan Avenue and will travel to their final destination, south of the North Paseo Building and Graduate School and Research Building via Tobin Avenue, Bauerle Road and Devine Avenue.Brennan Avenue, Tobin Avenue, Bauerle Road, Devine Avenue, Main Campus
Enjoy two classic holiday performances. Children’s Ballet of San Antonio will present two of The Nutcracker. Our Lady of Guadalupe Church will perform a traditional Pastorela play, a morality tale about shepherds going to Bethlehem and the snares the devil uses to dissuade them. Performances are included with regular ITC admission.UTSA Institute of Texan Cultures, 801 E. César E. Chavez Blvd., San Antonio
Celebrating graduating students from the College of Engineering and the College of Liberal and Fine Arts. Guest speaker: Susan Pape '86, chairman of the San Antonio Express-News.Alamodome, 100 Montana St., San Antonio
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